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Paynesville Press - January 26, 2005

Catholic nun retires after 55 years of service

By Michael Jacobson

Sister Mary Bernard Lieser - who grew up on a family farm in Zion Township and graduated from PHS in 1945 - retired last summer after serving as a nurse for 52 years.

Sister Mary Bernard was the last Catholic nun to retire from nursing in Idaho. She joined the Benedictine Order - at St. Gertrude Monastery in Cottonwood, Idaho - in March 1949 and has served 55 years as a Catholic nun.

nun She earned her LPN degree in 1952 and her RN degree in 1965 worked as a nurse in surgery, in the emergency room, in OB/GYN, and in general wards in Minnesota and Michigan. She became a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) in 1971 at the Wyandotte (Mich.) General Hospital's School of Anesthesia and worked for 11 years as a CRNA.

Sister Mary Bernard Lieser - who grew up in Zion Township and graduated from PHS in 1945 - retired in August 2004 after working as a nurse for 52 years. She was the last active sister nurse in Idaho.

For the past 22 years, she has worked as a night nurse in the oncology ward at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, Idaho. Sister Mary Bernard, 79, had six siblings, including two sisters who also became nuns. Sister Petronilla is still living, also now retired, at the the St. Gertrude Monastery in Cottonwood, Idaho.

One brother, Bernard Lieser, 94, lives in St. Martin.

In addition to the three nuns in the family, Sister Mary Bernard's parents sponsored three priests (one each from Africa, Japan, and Korea). And Sister Mary Bernard has 12 nieces and nephews who are either priests, brothers, or nuns and one great niece who is a nun.

Sister Mary Bernard grew up on the family farm nine miles north of Paynesville in Zion Township, went to church at St. Margaret's Catholic Church in Lake Henry, and attended the one-room schoolhouse (District 63) that is now the Lake Henry Legion, she said. Her parents moved to Paynesville in 1941, she said, giving her the chance to attend high school, though she had to learn to speak English as she only spoke German at the time.

In her retirement, Sister Mary Bernard plans to stay active in Lewiston, where she attends mass daily, visits shut-ins and the lonely, and volunteers by taking people to appointments. She hopes to become holier everyday, to love God more, and to show the joy that is possible by giving your life to God.

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